The Emergence of a New Epoch - A Dim Future for Life on Earth
by cstew92 on October 8, 2016 - 2:35am
This article begins by declaring the transition of human history into a new geological epoch known as the Anthropocene – as determined by a working group of high-level geologists. They’ve concluded that the main contributors of this rapid transition are a result of radioactive material during 1950’s hydrogen bomb testing, climate change, mining within the earth’s crust, and the development of widespread agriculture throughout the world. Author/activist and former politician Ian Angus recently published a book titled ‘Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System’ and has been travelling around Canada to speak to Universities about this issue. He is quoted saying “the last time an epoch was put on the charts, it marked the retreat of glaciers 12,000 years ago”. One of the professors from Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia who met with Angus explains that the human race seems to have crossed a threshold in that we are permanently affecting the earth’s natural regulating systems due to the burning of fossil fuels, and unsustainable human activity. Angus is hopeful that by eliminating the reliance on fossil fuels, we can reduce the effects of human induced climate change.
It is a well known fact that humans are one of the main contributors to what we are now coining the Anthropocene epoch. As the earth struggles to maintain equilibrium, extreme weather events have become more frequent and their destruction has increased. The main issue is that this will only continue to increase unless we stop ignoring the warning signs, and begin finding ways to create a sustainable balance in which we extract, consume, and dispose of resources. This is currently being done by the implementation of renewable resources like solar, wind, and tidal energy, however the capitalistic structure in which industrialized economies thrive emphasizes the need for wealth and power ahead of a sustainable environment.
Although humans have inhabited earth for a very short period of time, the amount of impact has had lasting effects that are becoming more and more obvious. This leads many people to question whether humans are the sole reason for this transition. This is hard to argue considering the evidence of rapid advancements in human activity and the continuous modifications made to the composition to the earth, from nuclear testing to the combustion of fossil fuels. When contemplating the geological time frame in which earth and even life for that matter was formed, it is difficult to pin-point exactly when this transition began to occur. The consensus is that it began somewhere between the rise of widespread agriculture and the industrial revolution.
Many of the underlying issues are linked together and seem to point in one direction – that is the rapid change to our global climate system. To highlight one example, warming atmospheric temperatures lead to the melting of ice sheets triggering a rise in sea level, this then increases the risk of flooding and ultimately has a profound effect on human life. This is just one of the many interchangeable mechanisms that have been simultaneously occurring since the discovery of natural resource extraction.
From a non-anthropocentric point of view when researching past epochs, and the evolution of the earth itself, it is evident that throughout history there have been many natural factors that have also shaped the earth into the complex system it is today. In particular, when studying earth’s eccentricity cycles patterns in orbital movement can be revealed involving the distance between the earth and sun helping to indicate amounts of solar radiation hitting earth. Due to this fact, and because we are currently in a warming period is it safe to say that maybe this has a profound effect on the earth’s climate system?
Although the main cause is still up for debate, we do know for certain that human activity has in large part played a dominant role in altering the global climate system. Whether due to the actions of individuals, the foundations of which economic institutions are based upon, or the natural characteristics of the earth. One thing is for sure, we must collectively as The Human Race confront the problems we are faced with and fight for the preservation of the natural world because otherwise we are knowingly and willingly helping to contribute to the demise of earth as a hospitable planet.
Ball, David. ‘The new Anthropocene epoch has arrived, and its very worrisome’. Metro News, 14 Sep. 2016, http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2016/09/14/new-anthropocene-epoch-has-already-dawned-warn-researchers.html. Accessed 6 Oct. 2016.